Image by f.lux

Get the most out of technology: a stress and self-care guide for the new year

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As the term progresses, it gets harder and harder to stay on top of things while taking care of yourself. We at The Talon would like to remind our readers to put your mental, emotional, and physical well-being first. Know your own body and know that it is not worth sacrificing your life for a grade. Sometimes, that all-nighter is necessary and not detrimental in the grand scheme of things, but hopefully with these resources, student life will be a little bit easier.

  1. Organization

HabitRPG

Who doesn’t like games?* HabitRPG aims to turn life into a game by turning your tasks into quests, or monsters to be defeated. By completing tasks and building habits, you can earn gold to reward yourself, level up and go on quests, collect eggs to breed pets and mounts, as well as decorate your avatar.

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*We understand that gaming culture has become quite negative for some, especially in light of the misogyny and harassment female gamers receive as a backlash of GamerGate. Gaming itself, however, can be beneficial to mental health when separate from negative gaming communities.

  1. Time Management

StayFocusd for Chrome or SelfControl for Mac OS

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StayFocusd is a Chrome extension that lets you set a designated amount of time you can spend on certain websites. Once the time runs out, if you try to access a page you have on your “Blocked sites” list, you’re redirected to a page that reminds you to start working.

There’s also a “Nuclear Option” which lets you block websites for a designated time, regardless of how much time you’ve already spent.  You can either block all websites, all websites except for those on your allowed list, or only websites on your blocked list. This is especially helpful when I’m up late trying to finish that final paper, though I’ve accidentally set it on before putting UBC Connect on my “Allowed sites” list, so be careful!

SelfControl is a free downloadable application for Mac users. According to the website, it “lets you block your own access to distracting websites, your mail servers, or anything else on the Internet. Just set a period of time to block for, add sites to your blacklist, and click “Start.” Until that timer expires, you will be unable to access those sites–even if you restart your computer or delete the application.”

Tomato Timer or Moosti

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Known as the Pomodoro technique, the goal of these apps is to encourage users to work for 25 minutes followed by a 5 minute break. In the 25 minutes, promise yourself to stay on task and block distractions like social media or texts. This method not only helps me stay on track, but also helps me gauge how long it takes for me to complete certain tasks.

Tomato Timer beeps at the end of each countdown, which might be alarming for some. Moosti, on the other hand, has a pop-up notification, which one might miss if they’re not working directly on the computer. While I suggested two websites, there are numerous apps available for you to choose from that does the same job! 

  1. Reading

BeeLine Reader

Reading long articles on your computer is tiring, and it’s been shown that people read about 25% slower on the computer than on print. However, sometimes printing is not an affordable option when you’ve got a 50 page article or an entire textbook to read. BeeLine reader helps you read faster by changing text from a flat colour to a gradient that guides your eyes. No download necessary, just load your PDF onto their PDF Converter or copy and paste paragraphs into their Pasteboard. This app is especially useful for students on the autism spectrum, as well as students who have ADHD or dyslexia.

Spreeder

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If you get distracted while reading like I do, you can paste your readings onto Spreeder, which flashes the words one at a time. It keeps me on focus because I can’t look away, or I miss a chunk of the sentence. You can adjust how many words flash per minute, font size, text colour, and background colour.

This app may cause eyestrain as it does have flashing images, so take caution before using!

  1. Health and Wellbeing

Background Noises

If you’re like me, you can’t work in complete silence. Grab a pair of headphones if you need to, and put on a bit of background noise while you work.

  • Rainy Mood and raining.fm recreates the ambient sound of rain
  • Songza and 8tracks lets you explore and choose playlists depending on the activity you’re doing
  • sounddrown lets you choose and combine up to ten background noises, ranging from coffee shop chatter to the sound of moving trains, all with individually adjustable volumes
  • The Talon’s own Soundtrack to the Revolution

F.Lux

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Ever notice how your computer or mobile screens look fine during the day, but look incredibly harsh as the sun sets? It’s because screens are designed to look like the sun. F.Lux (Alternatively, Twilight for android) dims and warms your screen to reflect the time of day, which allows for a better night sleep, or at least makes working at 2 A.M. a little more comfortable for your eyes.

  • Wilson Wong Wen Sean

    This is great! Wish I knew about these tools earlier.